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BOSE AR -

Hold Your Horses

I was tasked with building a heads-up, hands-free game only possible for Bose AR audio glasses. Get a glimpse of this exciting project.

My role

Interaction Designer, and Developer.

Our Process

extremely agile we had only a weekend to create an MVP for Bose, and then iterated and improved with constant feedback,  in little over 10 days.

Who is our user?

Curious and tech aficionados from different ages and backgrounds that want to experience audio AR with Bose AR frames.

Outcome

Our micro game was published on Google Play and showcased in game events such as Play NYC.

Hold Your Horses is a lighthearted western-inspired mini-game designed exclusively for Bose AR audio technology. The game is designed to be played with friends using Bose AR frames or headphones. The player wearing the Bose AR device steps into the boots of an outlaw on the run after a bank robbery, and will need to scape with the help of her/his friends.

Our team was selected by Playcrafting NYC to participate in the first Bose Mega Jam hosted at Betaworks and we had a weekend to produce an MVP game to show Bose's developer relationships team. I personally focused on project management, and UX/Interaction design.

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Design Challenges for spatial AR audio

We were presented with the following challenge “create a game based on spatial audio”. We had only 2 days to design and create an MVP from scratch. As you can imagine the design process was extremely agile and I spent many hours, in the beginning, hosting design sessions with the whole team using creative thinking methods such as "Crazy Eight", "Six Thinking Hats", and a personal method I personally developed which I named "Act Out" in which I encourage the team to communicate their ideas only with gestures, this was extremely useful when creating a new custom AR interaction gesture.

 

Our team wanted to explore the possibilities that new interactions can bring on a game in a 6DOF environment, which is a real challenge that barely any other participating team was willing to dive in. We decided that in order to explore a 6DOF audio world we needed a unique locomotion system, which I will describe un further detail later.

Image by Alvaro Reyes

AR Audio Design Process

I was personally interested in exploring the possibilities of interaction and UX design when visual UI is not possible. 

 

Initially, I pushed for a complete spatial based audio experience in the complete absence of visual interfaces, but after our first iteration, the Bose AR team suggested us we changed our gameplay to a less challenging experience for the user.

 

We then changed our game to an asymmetrical game where  Player 1 is wearing the Bose Frames glasses and drives the motion (horse) and a Player 2 guides the first player with some visual clues.

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Creating a Soundscape 3D to 2D 

When you are creating a spatial audio experience in 6DOF you need to create audio boundaries. In order to create those boundaries, the designer needs to understand that a landscape is turned into a soundscape. This means that every element of the scene needs to be designed with an identifiable sound for the user to navigate the scene.

As you can see in this image we created a sounding landscape that you can see represented in a graphic form. In order to "see" the sound, we added visible placeholders in our Unity Scene.

Sound elements:

  • Shallow Water - static

  • Deepwater - static

  • Horse - moves with you

  • Train - moves in a predictable path

  • Sherif - moving agent

  • Bullets - from the sheriff to you

Pain points: we had to make sure that we designed a scene with “noisy” boundaries and this presented a challenge.

 

Findings: choosing recognizable scene sounds like water splashes, train horns, doors shutting, and so on.    

A Completely New Locomotion System

We wanted to go the extra mile and during our brainstorming session we found out that we wanted to turn intuitive gestures into interactions.

 

We realized that when you speak or even think of “riding a horse” intuitively we move our head and our torso in a rhythmic way, while the main theme of bonanza sounds in our head. We wanted to translate that feeling into code and we were in luck because Bose AR frames contain a gyroscope and transmit its data.

 

Pain points: we had to adjust several times the sensitivity of the data from the gyroscope, we saw in our first prototype that users were complaining of having to move their heads too much and getting dizzy.

 

Findings: we realized that once again “less is more” even during the design of new spatial input, like a gesture. Target a smoother or a vague movement made the user more comfortable.

David Bowie is AR
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Inspiration

Growing up with arcade games based on the wild west we immediately started prototyping a game that was evocative, fun, and with little entry-level ideal for family parties, curious tech aficionados, and friends.

We wanted to capture the essence of arcade games and I personally decided to do a full pixel art redesign on the UI and graphics, trying to evoke 80's and 90's nostalgia.

Some of the games that we withdraw inspiration from are:

Blood Bros - 1990

Gun Smoke - 1985

Gun Fight - 1975

Dust: A Tale Of The Wired West - 1995

Gunfight - 1985

Since we did not have any graphics artists in our team, I took the responsibility to create the basic graphics and the UI even though this is not my area of study I jumped on the challenge with excitement.

To create the art I used a pixel art sprite maker software, and a regular graphics tablet, the most I have to admit that representing horses in motion was a demanding but quite rewarding task.

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Testing The Gameplay

Our game is designed for 2 players using only one device (in asymmetrical gameplay). Each player receives different information. Player n1 is in control of locomotion using Bose AR frames and receives only audio clues. Player n2 has visual clues and has to help Player n2 to scape.

 

Pain points: we originally planned the game for only one player and an audio-driven game with no visuals. But in mid-production Bose suggested that we added visual clues to lower the entry-level for all players, then we quickly jumped into a redesign of the scene to create an asymmetrical experience for two players.

 

Findings: with the asymmetrical gameplay users seemed to have an easier time finding the clues to escape and win the scene. To add a little bit more of a challenge we restricted the time and made the sheriff chase the player on a higher speed.